Don't Meditate To Fix Yourself

This is one of my favorite teachings. Thank you Bob Stahl for introducing it to me and thank you Bob Sharples for writing it.

Don't meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; 

Rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself.  In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough.  It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people's lives in a knot. 

Instead there is now meditation as an act of love.  How endlessly delightful and encouraging.

Bob SharplesMeditation: Calming the Mind

 

Too Busy To Meditate? Got Time To Walk?

Lindsey is a new graduate just off of orientation. When she is able, she spends five to ten minutes of her lunch break in the hospital chapel meditating. She says it helps her manage the sense of overwhelm she experiences as a new Nurse. She runs and does yoga and doesn’t always have time for more time to meditate.

Most of us spend our shift in overwhelm without a proper meal break. We may find the pace of the day picks up at the end of the shift when we run around shuttling kids to games, running errands and getting dinner on the table.

So if the idea of meditating seems impossible but you want to give it a try, I’ve got a solution for you.

Mindfulness for busy people: Give Walking Meditation a try.

You can do this when you are walking from your car to the soccer field or the supermarket with these four easy steps.

Gratitude: Invite yourself to appreciate your body’s ability to walk. While your body may not be perfect, it is yours and it has the ability to get you from point A to point B.

Feel your Feet: Connect to the sensations in your feet as the heels and the toes come into contact with the ground. If you walk slow enough you can say lifting, moving, placing as you make those movements.

Take in the sensory world around you: Expand your awareness from your feet to the sights, sounds, smells and touch sensations as you are walking. You may notice the smell of fresh cut grass, the feel of wind on your face or the warmth of the sun on your back.

Use your Inside Voice: You can be getting your mindfulness on without anyone even noticing. Feel free to come up with a phrase that allows you to get centered and focused, such as “Breathing in, I feel relaxed. Breathing out, I let go of what I no longer need.”

ARE YOU CHECKED OUT OF YOUR LIFE?

If you are new to meditation, you are probably like most people and need a little nudge to get a routine established before it becomes part of your life. Like an exercise routine, we benefit from support from others, such as a running buddy or a co-worker to join yoga class immediately after work. Sometimes the lull of the couch and the TV can have paralyzing effects once we are home, particularly if you are experiencing a snowy, frigid winter.

The MBSR course I am teaching is approaching the eighth and final class this week. After almost two months of mindfulness practice, some participants are ready to go solo, while others prefer the support of guided meditation. An area where we all could use a little assistance (including myself) is in bringing more awareness into everyday life.

How can we keep the mindfulness channel on? When the bell rings, it implies the meditation is over. For some, the bell may come too early, while others may have wanted the bell to ring ten minutes earlier.

What if the meditation is not over when the bell rings?

What if you didn’t turn off your awareness of the current moment?

What if we brought the intention to be attentive to each moment?

Awareness is always available to us. I don’t pretend to be aware 24/7. I check out from time to time even under supportive conditions of silent retreats. Mindfulness is simply bringing our attention to the present moment and we don’t have to make it more work than we need. It is a simple as right now, knowing you are reading this blog and feeling your body connecting to what it is in contact with. For me, it’s simply knowing that my fingers are pressing the keys to the laptop, and I’m aware of spooning steel cut oats into my mouth and sensing the taste of the oats, the almonds and the dried fruit. Throughout the day you can ask yourself the question:

WHAT AM I AWARE OF IN THIS MOMENT?

If you are running, you could be aware of your arms swinging by your side, the quality of the air as it meets your mouth and nose, the feet striking the ground or beads of sweat forming on your skin.

Think back over the last 24 hours. Were you functioning on autopilot or present when you were driving, showering, eating or communicating with others? Were you lost in planning the next scheduled activity or replaying something from the past?

What can you do today to bring more awareness to your day?

Hospital Chaos To Silent Retreat

The four-door sedan pulls up to the hospital where I await with my luggage. This stranger named Erin has offered me a ride to the silent retreat that I will soon be participating in. We are headed to an alternate reality; quite a radical change from my previous eight hours at the hospital. My 22-year-old patient was experiencing her own trip through the hazy veil of the effects of the Magnesium drip, necessary to prevent seizures.

It’s hard enough to push a little person out of the body, but add a bit of Magnesium to the mix (which relaxes the smooth muscles) and it can leave the patient completely exhausted. Yet the doctor and I were asking her to push every three minutes, while her team cheered her on. My amygdala was fired up on high alert because her platelets, (essential for clotting) were dangerously low and she was at high risk for hemorrhage.

At 22, she was single and the baby daddy was not at the bedside. Fortunately she had a supportive team of extended family who stepped up to the plate and were true patient advocates. Baby and mom were healthy and stable. I reported off and was out the door.

I guided Erin to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was loaded with holiday tourists to see the views of San Francisco under crystal clear blue skies. As we sat in traffic, I was happy to be “not doing” after my hectic day. Erin and I were joining 90 other strangers to bring in 2015 during an 8 night silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. I’ve been going on retreats for over ten years, but it still leaves people stumped with questions like these:

Can you bring books to read?

Can you use your phone or iPad?

Can you journal?

Nope, nope and strongly discouraged.

I remember my first retreat. My boyfriend at the time was an experienced retreat participant and he told me not to bring a book. I brought a book. I brought knitting too, which my warped mind, thought would be more spiritual than reading. I wasn't ready to be that spiritual! I only knitted in the secrecy of my room for thirty minutes a day. It was controlled cheating.

Over the years as I’ve deepened my meditation practice, I’ve grown to not only tolerate, but relish the solitude. Eight days was a solid chunk of time to literally do “nothing” but I had gone much longer. A couple of years ago I went on retreat for a month. It was remarkably effortless. This time the retreat managers offered to phone sit our smart phones, which I was happy to be free of. Key people in my life received the phone number to reach me for emergencies and my email was set to vacation auto-reply. Everything else would have to wait. When I came off retreat I realized once again that I really didn’t miss anything and my world as I knew it went on just fine without me. It’s humbling and freeing all at once.

Without the phones, the books or the journals, there was nothing to pull me away from my thoughts, emotions or pain when they visited. It’s only natural for us to turn away from the unpleasant and turned toward the pleasant – or at least something different. On retreat we have the opportunity to hang out in these places we don’t like so much and learn to be OK with it.

Each evening we received a dharma talk or lecture. The talks often left me touched and inspired. A teacher read this poem by Dogen:

Realization is effort without desire.

I wondered how I could have effort without desire. Is that even possible? I am a list maker extraordinaire. I enjoy effort with desire. How would one even be motivated without desire? Then I heard the rest of the poem.

Clear water all the way to the bottom; a fish swims like a fish.

Vast sky transparent throughout; a bird flies like a bird.

he next morning after breakfast, I hiked to the top of the hill as the low-lying clouds gently erased themselves from the sky below me to reveal just that - a bird simply flies like a bird.

MBSR 8-WEEK MINDFULNESS BASED STRESS REDUCTION STARTS THIS WEEK. TUES IS SOLD OUT.

THERE IS STILL ROOM IN THURSDAY AFTERNOON SERIES. MORE INFO HERE